Yue Hai Ching Temple



Yue Hai Ching Temple is one of the oldest Taoist temples in Singapore. It was started in 1826 by the Teochew community and is also known as Wak Hai Cheng Bio in Teochew. The present building at 30B Philip Street was built in the 1850s and gazetted as a national monument on 28 June 1996. The temple received a bian e (a horizontal board with an inscription on it) from Emperor Guang Xu of the Qing dynasty in 1907, an honour accorded to only one other temple in Singapore, Thian Hock Keng Temple.

In 1826, a group of Teochew settlers from Guangzhou, China, established a shrine dedicated to Tian Hou, the Goddess of the Sea, on Philip Street, which was a coastal area back then. The temple began as a simple shrine housed in a wood-and-attap hut, as was common with temples set up in the early 19th century. The temple faced the sea and was a place where newly-arrived Chinese immigrants as well as sailors and traders travelling between Southern China and Singapore came to offer thanks to the goddess for their safe journey across the seas. Its name means "temple of the calm sea built by the Guangzhou people".

In the mid-1850s, a concrete building to house the shrine was constructed. In 1895, a major renovation of the temple was undertaken by the owner, Ngee Ann Kongsi (Ngee Ann Association), which had been formed by a group of Teochews to look after the interests of the Teochew community. Incidentally, in the late 19th century, the Teochews became the second largest Chinese dialect group here after the Hokkiens and the temple played an important part in their daily lives as a meeting place for the people of the Teochew community. It served as a community centre as well as a place of worship for them.

In 1907, the temple was honoured with an imperial bian e bearing its name from the Qing emperor Guang Xu, thereby uplifting its status. The temple was gazetted as a national monument in 1996 and underwent repair and restoration work thereafter.

The temple is built in a traditional Chinese architectural style. Covering a total area of 695m2, it is situated within a walled compound fronted by a main entrance gate leading to a spacious forecourt. The temple consists of two separate shrines, each with its own entrance. One block houses the shrine of Tian Hou, who is worshipped by the sea-faring southern Chinese communities, while the other block is home to the shrine of Xuan Tian Shang Di, the Heavenly Emperor. The two blocks differ only in ornamentation and elevation. The ornament featured in the roof ridge of the Heavenly Emperor's shrine is a blazing pearl flanked by two dragons, while the shrine of Tian Hou features a miniature pagoda guarded by many dragons. The temple gets its stunning appearance from its elaborate and richly-carved roof with animal and bird motifs and a similarly well-carved beam-and-bracket roof support system. Scenes from Chinese opera can be seen in relief work done on the interior walls of the temple.

Variant names
Yue Hai Qing Temple, Yueh Hai Ching Temple, Yue Hai Qing Miao, Wak Hai Cheng Bio (Teochew).

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Edwards, N. & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 417). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)

Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore (pp. 22-25). Singapore: Landmarks Books.
(Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)

Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore (p. 155). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU)

Samuel, D. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest (p. 48). Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM)

Uma, D. G., et al. (2002). Singapore's 100 historic places (p. 73). Singapore: Archipelago Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)

Wong, C. M. (1996, June 28). Students to soak in culture at sea [Microfilm: NL20116]. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 20.

Further readings
Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore (pp. 22-25). Singapore: Landmarks Books.
(Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)

Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore (pp. 156-157). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU)

Yueh Hai Ching Temple. (2010). Retrieved October 25, 2010, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Temples, Taoist--Singapore
Ethnic Communities
Arts>>Architecture>>Religious buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Religious Buildings
Heritage and Culture
Religious buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities

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